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Stitches of wellbeing

Novita’s customer research: 93% of crafters see knitting as a way to relax – Brain researcher encourages people to knit in school or at work: “If you’re not doing anything with your hands, it’s bad for your brain”

Brain researcher Minna Huotilainen has some good news for crafters: all knitting is good for you. Whether it’s an easy or challenging project, a pair of socks or a sweater, knitting equals making things with your hands, and that’s what we humans need.

In her research, Huotilainen, a professor of education at the University of Helsinki, has focused especially on the neuropsychology and neurophysiology of learning. She tells us that a large part of the brain is reserved for making things by hand. To be specific, when we are engaged in crafting, we use cortical areas designated for vision, movement and the sense of touch, which cover a large portion of the cerebral cortex. If we want to feel healthy, these areas should be stimulated.

In modern society, however, our usage of them has diminished, much to our disadvantage. Eating delivery food and using ready-made clothes results in our hands remaining idle. For our brain, it makes a critical difference.

“You might go as far as to say it’s a kind of deprivation,” says Huotilainen. “Our brain suffers from it.”

According to Huotilainen, our hands and our brains are so closely connected with one another that they even learn things together. Researchers use the term embodied cognition to refer to the idea that our thinking is situated not only in our brain, but in the whole of our body.

Routines improve learning and make you relax

When you’re good at knitting, to the point that it’s almost automatic, it helps you relax. Huotilainen says that that is immensely important. In a world full of stimuli, we should all have some familiar activity which we can easily return to when we need to unwind.

According to Huotilainen, an experienced knitter will have trained their brain to the point that knitting will make it relax. Your body will remember the situation that prevailed on your previous knitting occasions, and the whole atmosphere of it will come back to you the next time you pick up your needles. Each time you knit, it will provide a more complete sense of relaxation. And indeed, in a customer study conducted by Novita in 2020, 93% of respondents told us that they knitted in order to relax.

“A knitter already has a pre-existing model of relaxation ingrained in their brain,” Huotilainen says.

As for improving learning, an easy crafting project will help you learn when the information is received in an auditory form. According to studies, doing simple things with your hands will not take away any resources from learning another thing – quite the opposite, in fact. Whilst working on a challenging knitting project will help you learn knitting itself, a simple project will help you learn something else simultaneously. What an excellent reason to take your needles with you when going to a class or meeting!

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